Achtung believers!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
Jude 5

The invitation to the Christian faith should come with a warning label. It does, actually. But like the warning tags on your mattress, the warnings of the Christian faith often go unread and unheeded.

The call to follow Jesus is a call to forgiveness, grace, and new and eternal life (John 3:16). But it is also a call to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 2:21), to take up your cross and die with Jesus (Matt 16:24). Salvation is the free gift of God received by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22-24), but you must be willing to give up everything for the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46).

Jude’s short letter is full of warnings to the believing community. He is writing to urge Christians everywhere to contend for the faith, because certain people have crept in unawares, and are twisting the grace of God into sensuality and denying our Lord and Master Jesus Christ (Jude 4).  As I wrote last week, this is a warning that we are to be on guard against those outside influences, and even inward persuasions, that would corrupt or twist the grace of God into licentiousness or lawlessness.

Verses 5-7 continue with these warnings, using a series of analogies to give caution to the Church. In the verse above, Jude looks back to the foundational event of the people of Israel, their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt, as a point of reference for the contemporary Church.

After nearly 500 years of slavery in Egypt, a captivity to darkness and death, God delivered His people by mighty acts of power. Through the 10 plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn throughout all the land, except for those whose homes were marked by the blood of the lamb, God saved His people from captivity. He brought them through the Red Sea, parting the waters that they may walk on dry land. He led them by the cloud by day and the fiery pillar at night. 

(Notice that Jude has a very high Christo-centric view of Salvation: “Jesus, who saved a people out of Egypt…”. Though Jesus is not mentioned in the Exodus story, early Christians clearly saw the eternal Son of God working through the Old Testament. The salvation of the people from Egypt was the work of the Christ; the exodus prefiguring the ultimate salvation that Jesus would secure for God’s elect (in the curse of the first-born and the blood of the lamb that marks those who believe) This is what’s known as the doctrine of inseparable operations: in which every action of God is from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and this is an order that is inherent to God’s triune identity.)

There was not one person among all of Israel who did not know, and would not confess belief in the God who saved them from their enemy. All would have been circumcised (the rite of acceptance into the covenant community). All would have attested to the mighty work of God on their behalf.  All would have been able to profess an orthodox belief.

And yet we are told that the entire generation who were brought out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:16-19; Num 14:20-25). They knew the right things, even had all the correct outward rites, but their faith was not genuine, they did not trust in the Lord, and they would not obey His commands (1 Cor 10:1-5). Though they had been saved from captivity in Egypt, they still came under judgment because of their unbelief.

Do you see what Jude’s doing here? He’s warned the church about those who have snuck in to corrupt the church with false teachings. Now he’s warning believers to examine their hearts. You may know the right things, have gone through all the right ceremonies, even professing outwardly your faith in Jesus Christ. But if that faith is not genuine, if it has no effect on the rest of your life, you are liable to the same threat of destruction that the Israelites faced in the wilderness.

We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and this is not by works so that no man may boast (Eph 2:8-9). But we are also saved for the good works that God has set apart for us from before the beginning of time (Eph 3:10).

Jude will give us no false sense of security. He warns us of a dead orthodoxy: where we hold on to correct doctrine without a change of heart (regeneration) or change of practice, or any demonstration of love for God or one another.  We are saved by faith, and yet even our Westminster Confession describes a saving faith as that which “yields obedience to the commands, trembles at the threatenings, and embraces the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come” (WCF XIV.2).

Beloved, hear and heed the warning from Jude. Guard your hearts, “that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12).

SDG

Some Post-Election Thoughts

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded,
set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 1:13, ESV)

The dust from Election Day is settling, and there is a President Elect.  While praying for a peaceful transition of power, I also recognize that there is a lot of pain, disappointment, heartache, and grief.  Of course, some are rejoicing that their candidate won, and others are dejected because their candidate lost.  And then you have those who liked neither of the two leading candidates, and while they may be happy that one candidate lost, they can’t quite be happy that the other candidate won.  It’s a really strange time. I didn’t get my sticker for having  voted, but had I a choice, I would have picked this one:

cried

The Social-Media platforms are on fire today with flaming arrows coming from either side.  There are two basic comments being made. Those whose candidate lost are lamenting how these uneducated, unsophisticated, basket of deplorable troglodytes could actually come together to pull off this upset vote.  Those whose candidate won are acting as if the world is finally right again, that Utopia is finally within reach, and that the losing side are finally getting their due.  The thing is, what I’ve just written could have been said regardless of who had won the election, and it will be the reaction every time there is an election of this magnitude.

With this in mind, I thought I’d offer a Pastoral word on avoiding this Post-Election Division and Dysphoria.  These are in no particular order, and since I was up pretty late awaiting the election returns, I simply pray they make some sense to you and are helpful in these coming days.

  1. We need to repent.  Both sides of the ticket.  We have calumniated those we disagree with, assumed they have the worst intentions, and harbored hatred in our hearts.  If you think you haven’t done this, ask yourself, “When did I honestly and sincerely pray for the candidate of the opposing party?”  We tend to objectify those who differ from us politically, and refer to them as “They” or “Them,” and feel no compunction of saying the most vile things about them.  Is this how a Christian should speak of others?  Let us repent, and commit to pray for and support our elected officials, regardless of whether we voted for them.
  2. Avoid two tendencies that are sides of the same coin.  The first is the tendency to vilify the other.  As I mentioned above, this is an easy trap to fall into.  Let us rise above this, for the sake of the grace that has been given to us in Christ Jesus.  Paul writes in Romans 12:14-18, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:14–18).
    The other tendency is to idolize the victor.  Our candidate is the only one who can fix the economy, stop global warming, ensure our liberty, bring and end to war and usher in a season of peace; Our candidate will save the world!  That may seem extreme when all crammed together, but individually, they have all been said at one point or another.  If you’re walking away from the election results thinking that finally the dark clouds have passed and we’re about to enter 4 years of unprecedented growth, peace, and prosperity, then perhaps you’ve put your hopes in the wrong place.
    Let us remember Psalm 146 –
    “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;” (Psalm 146:3–7, ESV)
  3. Finally, let us not take our eyes off our goal, Jesus Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith.  I’d never survive if my hopes and fears were answered by the 2-year/4-year cycles of political elections.  All the promises made and broken, all the mud-slinging and campaigning – it gets to be too much. I heard someone today (the day after the election!) say something about the next presidential campaign starting a year from now.  Lord help us!
    Rather than ride these waves of the political storm, let us fix our eyes on Jesus.  Let us be the righteous ones who are like tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:3): firm, fixed, unwavering, unmovable.  Let us pursue the righteousness of Christ, that we may shine like the brightness of the sky above… like the stars forever and ever.  Let us grow in maturity in Christ, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

Knowing that Christ is our Lord and King, and that all these earthly kingdoms will rise and fall, let us walk in faith and obedience before him, loving Him by loving one another.  His reign is forever, and His power is great.  Therefore, keep calm, and carry on in faith!

Grace and peace,

SDG